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Auzentech Auzen X-Meridian 7.1

Soundcards, like videocards, tend to have cookie-cutter designs; products that use the same chipsets look virtually the same.

That wasn’t the approach Auzentech took when it put down the traces for its Auzen X-Meridian 7.1 card. Auzentech says it carefully crafted a custom PCB and added components to get the best possible audio from the card, which is based on C-Media’s top-shelf CMI8788 Oxygen HD “audio processor.” We believe it, too. The board’s traces, layout, and components are vastly different than those of the Razer AC-1 soundcard, which also uses the CMI 8788 Oxygen HD chip.

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SanDisk Sansa e280R Rhapsody

We liked almost everything about SanDisk’s Sansa e260 flash-memory digital media player when we reviewed it in November 2006, but we slapped it with a verdict of 5 because we activated its voice recorder every time we picked the damned thing up. The Sansa e280R fixes that problem and adds two more gigs of memory for good measure.

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Sony BWU-100A Blu-ray Drive

Most folks aren’t prepared to choose sides in the battle between Blu-ray and HD DVD—and who can blame ’em, given the scarcity of HD content and the exorbitant cost of drives and media. But for the gotta-have-it-now early adopters, Blu-ray remains the only next-gen disc you can burn. The HD DVD camp has yet to release a burner, while Sony’s BWU-100A marks the third Blu-ray burner we’ve reviewed in the last six months. And with each new model, we’re seeing improvements.

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HP TouchSmart IQ770

When HP designed the TouchSmart IQ770, it must have been thinking of that old saying, “No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like the kitchen best.” This PC is tailor made for serving up—and scarfing down—digital media in the kitchen.

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Pertelian X2040

One-part silly and two-parts helpful, with just a pinch of problems, the Pertelian 2040 USB display leaves us with a mixed taste in our mouths.

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Kingston K-PEX 100 Portable Media Player

We hate to admit it, but we sometimes judge a book by its cover. Kingston’s K-PEX 100 is a case in point—this flash media player sat in the Lab unopened and unloved for weeks.

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Sytrin KuFormula SHF1

It’s a rarity in the Maximum PC Lab that a product comes in and performs without annoyance, irritation, or even the slightest bit of “we had to resort to interesting solution x to make things happy.” Enter Sytrin’s KuFormula SHF1 hard-drive cooling unit, a marvel of simplicity that looks good and cools great.

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